The flip side of Dayenu

My poet friend Sarah Elkins posted a poem today with a phrase that settles deep within: nurs[ing] the sadness of not.

Today where I live the blue sky grins above pines pruned by wind and the temperature hovers at a seasonal sunny 34.

My mother curls over a book as if it were a bedpan, the pain in her body so apparent that her voice dulled to a whisper seems a redundant expression of anguish. She is ready to die but for her worry about my sister who lives with her. Who will pay the rent? My mother hangs on for a pension check to maintain an apartment she can barely leave. She frets about her youngest child so dependent and limited while her own diminishment howls in the cage of brittle rib.

Meanwhile, a young woman I know lies in a recovery room waiting for her body to decide whether the incontinence from spinal damage remains or abates. The woman’s sister wonders about God. At Passover, the dayenu litany follows phrase after phrase, extolling how it would have been sufficient if we had been led out of bondage, if we had been given the Promised Land. Today, a perverse reversal emerges. God, the Job of the Scriptures asks, is it not enough that a young person has a serious chronic disease; must she suffer a ruptured disk as well? Must she lose control of bodily functions? Must the family wait for her in the same room they waited the day their brother/son died in that hospital four and a half years ago? 

When is enough enough?

We nurse the sadness of not enough—and suckle its twin: too much suffering.

Sometimes the body outlives the self. When all the thoughts have been thunk and pain rocks on its haunches licking every fiber, why does the breath linger? And why in the prime of youth do some bodies wilt?

The God of my understanding is beingness itself: mysterious, ubiquitous and patently devoid of answers. The God I pray to is but a thrumming of existence, yet like Job, I resort to calling out as if God were a being with ears ready to hear plaintive cries. I pray for the young woman I know and her family. I pray for my mother and all the beings trapped in their mortality when they desire release. I pray for polar bears and the big cats and all the creatures that find no benefit in humanity as we muck up the world. I pray for people exploited by bondage and labor and ideologies of hate. I pray with my heavy heart as I take my love dog Zuki into the woods and sing. I write to my poet friend Sarah, “Creation delights in our delight and absent delight, it appreciates our attentiveness.”

On this day may it be enough.